The kids, and adults who fell prey to the teen drama ‘Riverdale,’ know Kevin Keller as a friend of Betty and Veronica. Those really into music, however, know Kevin Keller the veteran musician whose album ‘The Front Porch of Heaven’ drops September 18, 2020.
So how does one feel about sharing a name with a popular TV character, “Haha! Truthfully, I don’t really have any feelings about it either way and don’t think about it much. It’s certainly an honor to have such a popular name! I’m just glad that I’ve been around much longer, and that I own kevinkeller.com – that would have been a real problem, for sure. Dan Parent (the creator of the animated character) and I have had a few laughs about it, and there are no hard feelings. One of these days, I’ll get back to the top search result on Google. It’s only a matter of time.”
A quick exchange about his name is how we broke the ice, and underneath came more revelations about events that have shaped his existence from the ‘90s rave scene to the time his heart stopped beating on the operating table…
Kendra: You lived it up in the ‘90s at raves and things like Burning Man. You’ve noted how those times and activities were more “spiritual” than anything else. Have you since left all that behind and found a new source of spirituality in the past couple of decades?
Kevin Keller: My source of spirituality has always been my connection with nature. I spend a lot of time in solitude, outdoors, and this is where I get my inspiration and my grounding. My Burning Man days were a very big part of my life, and I still feel very connected to those experiences, even now. That spirit of adventure, risk-taking, and creative community is the main thrust of my music and my life. Artists are crucial to a thriving society, and being a part of such an impactful, far-reaching community like Burning Man, especially in its early days, had a deep and lifelong effect on me. I’ll be forever grateful for the lessons learned out there on the playa.
Kendra: I feel like being a composer is something many overlook as a very crucial career as the music you, and other musicians like you, create sets the mood for everything from commercials to movies to our favorite TV shows. If the grandfathers of composing like Bach and Beethoven could see what the likes of ambient and neo-classical music were used for today – how do you feel they’d react?
Kevin Keller: I think they’d be delighted, if not also pleasantly surprised. When Bach was alive, the only real career one could have as a composer was to write music for the church or royal patrons. Beethoven was quite a bit more entrepreneurial, and he self-produced a lot of concerts and performances, while also writing commissioned scores. The modern equivalent of those royal patrons is the film and television world. Now, composers are commissioned to write film scores and music for television, and there are far more opportunities out there now than there were in the 1700s and 1800s. There is also music for contemporary dance and ballet, as well as digital media and video games. The list continues to grow, and it’s a great time to be a composer.
Kendra: With that, what’s the mood you tend to compose best for, and why do you think that is?
Kevin Keller: Great question! The mood I feel the deepest connection to is “introspection”, which can take on many colors and shades, from dark and mysterious to light and ethereal. I think because of my natural introspectiveness, and the amount of time I spend alone outdoors, this is where my music feels the most “at home”.
Kendra: I bet you went through a variety of moods when it came to ‘The Front Porch Of Heaven.’ Do you feel like because this album was inspired by your time on the surgery table and being on life support, that this album sits atop as your most personal to date?
Kevin Keller: Most definitely. There were a couple of times during the writing of the album that I felt as vulnerable as I’ve ever felt. It felt like I was revealing something so personal and so private that I questioned whether I should do it. I felt almost “naked”. But I felt that this album needed to be that personal, otherwise, it would fall short. I’m always looking for ways to push myself creatively and to break down perceived walls in myself to find the truth. “The Front Porch of Heaven” definitely goes to places I’ve never been in my work, and it feels good to have shared that with the listeners.
Kendra: How do you think the actual front porch of Heaven is adorned?
Kevin Keller: I’ve always imagined it as a rustic cabin, in a clearing in the woods, with a porch swing. Nothing fancy about it. Very simple, homey, and familiar.
Kendra: With all that has transpired this year, how do you feel 2020 has shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Kevin Keller: Even though the pandemic has been a tragedy for everyone, the one positive thing that came of it was that I stayed inside my studio more and immersed myself in music. I basically “doubled down” on my creative work during the quarantine, and this allowed me to finish the album ahead of schedule. That extended time indoors also got me to overcome a lot of perceived barriers to creativity, and I’ve emerged with a newfound sense of momentum and creative juices. I added a couple of new instruments to my studio (a Fender Telecaster and a Moog Grandmother), and have already started sketching out ideas for the next album. I feel more connected to my music now than perhaps ever before.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned…
Kevin Keller: I’m just naturally a planner, and this year is no different. Of course, in the short term, I’ll be promoting ‘The Front Porch of Heaven,’ sharing it with as many people as I can. After that, I’ve begun preparing for a live concert special that I’m going to produce in Spring 2021. It’ll take place at a venue in New York City, and will feature music from my entire career (all 12 albums), performed live with a string ensemble and myself on keyboards and synthesizers. There will be custom lighting and visuals, and a complete journey through the moods and colors of my music. Once it’s been shot and edited, I’ll be shopping it to streaming networks, and eventually offering it on DVD and digital. It’s a huge undertaking, but with everyone having to come up with alternatives to touring, I think it’s going to be a greats.